Stoudemire feeling 'great,' ready for Tuesday opener

Updated: October 30, 2006, 8:30 PM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Two strong practices by Amare Stoudemire have Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni feeling optimistic about his big forward heading into Tuesday night's season opener against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

"I think that's the nature of an injury to be up and down," D'Antoni said Monday. "It's just when you're potentially one of the better players in the league you get a lot of attention when you have an off day. It's 'Oh, he can't do it.'

 Amare Stoudemire

"I'm sure there's a lot of people hoping he can't do it, but I'm thinking he can. He looked good the last couple of days."

Stoudemire pronounced himself ready for the opener.

"I feel great," he said Monday. "Today was another great day, it was better than yesterday, so tomorrow I should feel even better."

Stoudemire will come off the bench to start the season, with D'Antoni expecting to play him 15 to 20 minutes a game.

"Whatever coach D'Antoni has in mind, I'm definitely down for it," Stoudemire said. "It's up to him. Once on the court, I'm going to play to the best of my ability."

Stoudemire was an All-Star in 2004-05, and a dominant force in the Suns' Western Conference finals series against San Antonio. But Stoudemire missed all of last season, except for an aborted three-game comeback, because of microfracture surgery on his left knee. He later underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to address wear and tear that occurred during his rehabilitation.

That has led to an uneven recovery, with recurring pain sending him to the sidelines from time to time. Each setback is closely watched and Stoudemire has grown weary of the scrutiny.

"It is tough," he said. "Any small thing and the world finds out about it and it begins to become a big thing, but it's not that serious. We're doing a great job of maintaining my strength, and we're going to have some good days and bad days."

Steve Nash has noted that the offense has changed over the past two years, but Stoudemire said that adjustment is no big deal.

"It's a little different," he said. "It's just that I haven't played in a year. It's not really hard to fit into this offense. It's not hard at all. It's just that I haven't played in a full year, so it's just a little rust."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press